By Phil Stacey
---- — HAVERHILL — A little tinkering was all it took.
With their revamped lines clicking like they’d been playing together for years, the Danvers High hockey team found the offense it was looking for Saturday. The Falcons broke open a close game with four unanswered goals in the second period and held host Masconomet to a grand total of 11 shots on goal to secure a 6-2 non-league victory at the Valley Forum.
“We really needed this one,” said Danvers center Adam Merry, who scored the first of his team’s six tallies. He rejoined the Falcons for his senior year after spending the last two winters playing junior hockey for the Salem Ice Dogs program. The goal was his third of the season and 12th point overall.
“I think it was a matter of the lines starting to click; we changed them before last game (vs. Winthrop) and now, after a few practices and two games together, I think it’s really going to benefit us in the long run. It worked really well (Saturday).”
Danvers (6-2-2) was deadly on special teams, scoring on three of four power play opportunities while also burying a shorthanded chance.
Senior captain A.J. Couto, the left wing who was moved from the first to the second line in order to create more offensive balance, scored on a shorthanded breakaway to make it 4-1 in the second period. He then connected on the power play with just over a minute to play in the stanza, tipping a shot out from past Masconomet captain Matt Cardillo.
Fellow captain Joe Strangie also had a pair of goals; the first line center gave his club a 2-0 lead late in the first period, then scored the eventual game-winner about five minutes into the second, finishing off a pretty 2-on-1 feed from his new linemate, junior left wing Matt Flynn.
The revamped first line of Strangie, Flynn and Rob Buchanan (three assists) combined for three goals and five assists. Couto, Merry and Tyler Dustin added three goals, while sophomore defenseman Mike Disciullo had a pair of assists.
For a team that had scored just four goals in its last three games and seven total over its previous five contests, the half-dozen markers for the Falcons were a welcome sight.
“It was nice to see us break out,” admitted Danvers head coach Kevin Brown. “The line combinations seemed to work pretty well, and we cashed in on special teams. Plus, we did a lot of those little things we’re always talking about: winning loose pucks, playing physically, blocking shots.”
Frustration was the key word down the hallway, where Masconomet (3-6-1) had trouble generating any sustained offense and never found a answer when the Falcon forwards buzzed in and around their net.
“We talked all week leading up to this game about playing physically, because we knew (Danvers) would,” said Chieftains head coach Andrew Jackson. “They won nearly all the 1-on-1 battles and made the most of their power plays. Take away the special teams and it’s a 2-1 game ... but (Danvers) earned what they got.
“A big problem is that we didn’t clear guys out (in front of the net); most of their goals were scored off of rebounds. They totally outmuscled us in the slot and in our defensive zone.”
After mustering just one shot in the opening 15 minutes, captain Alec DiGiorgio scored early in the second period on the power play, slicing Masco’s deficit to 2-1. But four straight Danvers goals put the game away, and a late tally by the Chieftains’ Anthony Anzalone couldn’t change that.
“We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied,” Merry said when asked about how he saw his team at the halfway mark of the regular season. “We want to start rolling again like we did at the beginning of the year. We have the depth; we just need to capitalize on our opportunities and finish off our shots.”
Both teams used two goaltenders Saturday: Alex Taylor stopped seven shots in 40 minutes for Danvers before giving way to fellow sophomore Jay Joyce (2 saves). Cardillo had 19 saves in two periods for Masconomet; junior Mitch Nekoroski stopped all seven shots he faced in the third.